BREAKING NEWS - TWO DEAD, AT LEAST 140 INJURED AND 40 MISSING IN POWERFUL EARTHQUAKE IN JAPAN
Two people have died. At least 140 are injured and about 40 more are missing. A powerful earthquake that rocked Hokkaido early this morning has triggered landslides, caused widespread damage and left the whole of Japan's northern island prefecture without power. Strong aftershocks have followed and thousands of rescue crews are being mobilized. Evacuation orders have been issued in some areas.
The quake hit shortly after 3 AM on the western part of the island, leaving everyone in the dark.
The Meteorological Agency estimates the magnitude was 6.7. And there have been dozens of aftershocks since then.
Near the epicenter, landslides wiped out homes in Atsuma. All of the missing are from this town.
Helicopter crews are carrying out rescue operations.
Rescue workers are frantically searching for 5 people buried in the rubble.
The extent of the damage is still being assessed but throughout the prefecture buildings are tilted, and roads are cracked and buckled.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says his government has set up an emergency task force that is putting a priority on search and rescue. He says 25-thousand Self-Defense troops will be sent.
Evacuation shelters are being set up in many towns and cities.
Nearly 3 million households throughout Hokkaido are without power following the strong earthquake that struck the northern prefecture early on Thursday morning.
The industry ministry says the tremor shut down the largest thermal power plant in Hokkaido, the Tomato-Atsuma plant, which in turn led to a shutdown of all other thermal and hydro plants in the prefecture.
The ministry says the shutdown of the Tomato-Atsuma plant caused power demand to far exceed supply, making it difficult to maintain the power frequency. This forced the shutdown of other plants as a safety measure to prevent equipment damage.
As a result, about 2.95 million households across Hokkaido are left without power.
Hokkaido Electric Power Company has resumed operation of 4 hydropower plants. But the electricity generated there is being used for operations to restore the thermal power plants, and it is still unable to supply power to homes and companies.
The utility is also conducting inspection operations to search for damage to power cables and substations across the prefecture.
The industry ministry says there is a power transmission line to supply power from the main Honshu island to the northern island prefecture. But it says power cannot be provided unless power in Hokkaido is restored to a certain extent.
The ministry says if operation resumes at the largest Tomato-Atsuma plant, all other thermal plants can go online.
The ministry has ordered Hokkaido Electric Power Company to start getting the power plants working as quickly as possible.